Thursday 15 August 2019

Short Story 2019 Featured Writer, Shivani Dua

The Blocked Tear
Mr. Das, a septuagenarian, a widower –was walking through the street to reach the market to buy grocery. He was cheerfully greeted by the store owner. Mr. Das had a cold expression on his face and mechanically put a list on the counter which the owner gave to his assistant, who put the things in a bag, which was given to the old man along with the bill. Mr. Das foot the bill and went away. This was his daily regime. He would bring vegetables and grocery, cook food, read newspaper and then go to the park. He spent his maximum time in the park, sitting on a bench.

The park had tall trees-a haven for birds and squirrels. Sometimes, a squirrel or a tiny sparrow would silently perch on his bench. Rather than admiring the antics of the lovely creatures, he would mercilessly shoo them away. He would watch the children playing and smiling, young couples taking a stroll and older ones like him either sitting or walking at a snail’s pace. 

Mr Das just looked at everyone with a stony silence- did not utter a word or smiled or waved at anyone. At sunset, he would get up from his seat and go back home. Sometimes he had dinner and slept- sometimes he slept without dinner. Sleep was something he really enjoyed-a panacea for all his ills. No worries, no feeling of loneliness, nothing to think of. He followed his routine religiously.

He was leading a kind of robotic life. Mr. Das was no more than a lifeless statue- with a face wearing a grave expression, bulging eyes and dry lips sans any trace of smile as if he feared smiling-the reason behind his stony silence was dug deep inside the recesses of his heart. His was a happy family with a doting wife and a loving son. But fate had something diabolical in store. His son died at an early age when he met with an accident while playing on the road. The tragic incident left a deep scar in their life. His wife lost her balance of mind due to the trauma and lived for just a couple of months after the death of their son. And then breathed her last. The heart rending incidents left Mr. Das speechless. The stony silence became a part of his being. Smile sat hesitantly on his lips. Like a robot, he performed all his daily chores mechanically, hardly aware what surprise life held for him.

One day while sitting on his usual bench in the park, a little child came to him and asked for something to eat. Mr. Das did not respond. The boy tugged his shirt and asked again. This time too, he met with silence. Then the boy sat quietly with him on the bench.

Mr. Das shouted, “Why are you sitting here? Get down from my bench.”
“Your bench??” exclaimed the boy. “That means you can speak, uncle. I thought you were mute.”
 Mr. Das was infuriated and was about to blurt out when the boy cut him short and said, “Uncle, I am an orphan. I have not eaten anything today. I am feeling so hungry. Can you give me something to eat?”

These words melted his heart. He got up and brought a burger from a nearby eating joint.
The boy grabbed it and finished eating within a few seconds. “Yummy, so tasty, I love it,” he commented. “Thank you, uncle. I thought I would die today. You made me live.”

 Tears welled up in the boy’s eyes while speaking these lines and he hugged Mr. Das tightly. Mr. Das stood as a statue, showed no feeling, no emotion and went away. When Mr. Das reached home, the boy’s words kept ringing in his mind (‘’I thought I would die. You made me live”) His son’s face flashed in front of his eyes whom he could not save from the jaws of death.
Next day, Mr. Das saw the boy again in the park. When he came towards Mr. Das, he shouted,” Don’t come here. Today you will get nothing from me.”

“I don’t want anything, uncle… Today a rich man came to the temple and distributed food. I’m well fed,” the boy replied calmly.
 “Then why are you coming here?” asked Mr. Das furiously.
 “To sit with you,” he replied innocently.
”But why?” asked Mr. Das surprisingly.
 “Because both of us need company,” the boy answered with a twinkle in his eye.
”No, please go,” said Mr. Das.
“Uncle, this is not fair. You never let anyone sit on your bench. You even shoo the little birds who try to sit here.”
Mr. Das was full of rage. He shouted angrily, “This is my bench. I will decide who will sit here. Who are you to dictate me?”
“I I I am no one, uncle. I am just a little boy. But whatever you are doing is not right. Please think about it.” 

“Go away from here… Now you will tell me what to do and what not to,” said Mr. Das fuming.
Mr. Das failed to notice that everyone in the park had stopped what they were doing and were staring at both of them. When Mr. Das noticed this, he screamed, “What are you looking at? Is it a drama going on here for your entertainment? Go, do your work.”
Someone out of the crowd came out, went near the boy and whispered into his ears, “Go from here- he is a mad man who snaps at anyone who tries to talk to him forcibly…”
Mr. Das heard it and shouted again, “Yes I am mad. Go away, go away.” 

”No, he is a very kind and loving person. I am alive just because of him. He saved me from dying… I was just telling him that he should not forbid anyone from sitting on the bench,” said the boy smiling at Mr. Das.
The little boy went towards the old man, hugged him and went away without saying anything. Mr. Das was touched by his loving gesture and kept looking at the boy until he disappeared behind the tall buildings.

A few days passed after this incident, the boy did not come to the park. Mr. Das’ eager eyes looked for him eagerly. But he didn’t turn up. Mr. Das decided to go behind the tall buildings where he had disappeared. When he went there, he saw someone kicking a child who was lying on footpath.
”Hey! Get away from here. Is this a place to sleep?” the man shouted at the boy.
 Mr. Das went near the boy and looked at him. He was the same child he was looking for. Mr. Das fired a volley of questions.
“Why didn’t you come to the park? Why are you lying here? What happened?” But there was no response.

The boy just looked at him and said imploringly…”Uncle, Please save me.” Then he fell down, unconscious. Mr. Das touched his forehead. It was too hot. The boy was down with high fever. Mr. Das immediately took him to the doctor and brought medicine. Then he took him to his home. He took care of the child like his own son. Every time he looked at his face, he was reminded of his own son. He made food for him, gave him medicine on time and took care of all his needs. The boy was recovering from his illness. One day Mr. Das got up in the night to check if the boy was fine. When he went into the boy’s room, he was sleeping soundly. When Mr. Das was quietly going out, the boy suddenly woke up, held his hand, got up from bed and hugged him. 

”Uncle, you are so good,” he said. And started weeping profusely. “I have never seen my parents. In you I see them,” said the boy.
Mr. Das’ hand came up in the air as if to pat the child lovingly but he stopped midway.
When the boy saw his hand, he forcibly put it on his head and said, “Thank you for your blessings, uncle”.

Then he fell down on the bed due to weakness.
Mr. Das said, “Sleep. Lie down, don’t talk too much.”
 And he came out of the room.

Next morning, Mr. Das woke up late as he didn’t have a wink of sleep last night. He went to the boy’s room but found that he wasn’t there. His heart missed a beat. He looked outside the house, in the park but found him nowhere. Feeling distressed, he came back home and saw the boy waiting for him outside his home.
”Where were you uncle? I am feeling hungry. I am unwell and you don’t even give me food,” said the boy complainingly.

Mr. Das shouted,” Where were you? I am looking for you frantically”.
“Uncle, I was here only. I went to the lawn at the back of your house to get a whiff of fresh air. I am feeling nauseated due to the effect of medicine. Sorry,” the boy replied.
”Now get inside and have something to eat”, said Mr. Das.
Just as they were about to enter the house, the boy held Mr. Das’ hand and asked him, “Can I call you Dadu?” 

Mr. Das looked into the child’s eyes. He could not utter a word. His overflowing emotions sealed his lips. A tear fell down from his eye. From the eye of a stone who hadn’t laughed or wept for years. He hugged the child as tightly as he could and nodded. “Yes, I am your Dadu”.

Mr. Das got the child admitted in a school and took great care of him. Both of them enjoyed a lot, played, had ice cream, watched TV, laughed and went to the park together. Now any squirrel or bird or any other tiny creature was not shooed away by Mr. Das. He was no more a robotic but a lively personality now. The little boy would mischievously look at Mr. Das when any squirrel came near them on the bench and then they both burst into a loud guffaw, startling the tiny creature. Mr. Das would even feed the birds and squirrels with bread crumbs which he brought along with him. He waved at others, smiled and greeted them, he even allowed people to sit on his favourite bench in the park. Earlier people were apprehensive but when they saw the little boy sitting comfortably with him. They also mustered courage to sit there.

Mr Das would remark jokingly, “Hey! You can sit here, I am not mad.” 
And then they all would laugh loudly.

Mr. Das loved spending time in the park, where he met this little child who changed his whole life, whose selfless love made the blocked tear generated by his grief pangs come out giving place to pure bliss.

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